…Now let’s get back to it.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

This campaign season has been one of the most debilitating, disheartening and grotesque in American history. Some of the unrest and rhetoric has bubbled into violence. There is a feeling — a very clear and present and palpable danger — that things are about to get really, really bad really, really fast not only for this country, but for this world.

You see, love us or hate us, wave the flag or burn it, right now we still set the tone.

And we’ve taken those phasers off stun and put them on …obliterate.

The fringe of America, the disenfranchised white guy who grips his guns, clings to his Bible and blithely wraps his veiny lips around the diseased fire hose of hatred and fear in the 24-hour media cycle (yes, ALL media is guilty in the era of link-baiting) and waits for the end to come so he can beam up to his version of paradise — probably something along the lines of being intravenously fed Arby’s while Larry the Cable Guy gives him a hand job and shoves Prilosec OTC down his maw — has stolen the conversation.

They have come like thieves in the night and robbed us of statistics, facts, reason and pleasant understatement. The term “agree to disagree” has left the building faster than if a taser were pointed at it and instead it’s this or that, good vs. evil, my ____ vs. your ____.

We’ve become so inured to this, so just punished to the point of blackout with the daily binge of all this divisiveness, that it really DOES feel like the end times.

The truth of the matter is, we just all needed to pause, take a deep breath, reset — and get a hug.

Thank you Michele Obama for your embrace Monday night.

She didn’t have to do it you know. She’s been traveling around the country, the globe, for almost eight years trying to do the right thing; all while being photographed, scrutinized, judged, criticized and sometimes scorned because of her color or her gender — or both. It’s safe to say, she has had enough.

In May, at the White House correspondent’s dinner, her husband joked that he had to stop her from scaling the White House wall, to keep her from escaping. Nine more months baby, he reminded her.

Earlier this month, doing car karaoke with late night talk show host James Cordon, he mused about whether she’d miss the 24-hour room service. She smiled and played along and noted she’d gladly trade in all the 3 a.m. grilled cheeses and milkshakes for a little bit of privacy.

So here she is, running on vapors, less than a week removed from having her 2012 speech lifted and butchered by an Eastern Bloc expat in lady-in-waiting wearing death/sex cult garb — being called on one last time (realistically, probably not one last time) to deliver.

And she nailed it.

She unified not only the rancorous Democrats on the floor still smarting from Russia-hacked DNC email release which revealed what we all knew, that politics is a cynical, treacherous game…

And, as a side note on that:

1) Those “leaks” are brought to you by a country run by a dictator hellbent on seeing this one fail. You know this, right?

And

2) Before you judge emails that have been strategically released (including some taken out of context and/or fabricated) please do this: Go through the last three years of your work emails (yes, even the ones you deleted and then went and checked the trash to “double-delete,” I know your tricks) and print them ALL out. Then march into your boss’s office and ask, “Do you have a minute?” Please close the door behind you, then proceed to spend the next couple hours unleashing on him or her all your thoughts and feelings about their personal management style, sense of humor, work ethic, hygiene and whatever else you deemed worthy to write talk shit about. Then approach your company’s CEO and do the same with the highlights of how you really feel about the institution you work for, the people at the top, the bad ideas they push from on high that you consistently undermine in private yet fall in line with in your waking life and all the rumors, gossip, slander and office holiday scandal postmortem you can roll out before the printer runs out of toner.

My guess is you’d be updating your LinkedIn by lunch.

I’m not saying the cynicism that has permeated this country is a good thing, it’s a pandemic and part of the reason why we’re here re: the GOP nominee. Nor am I saying that organizations like the DNC, which are supposed to be held to a higher standard, shouldn’t do some soul searching and straight re-training and re-organization over the email release.

What I am saying is if those who are hand-wringing and trolling on line and literally screaming from the convention floor find themselves to be so pure of heart that Purell would only smudge its glass casing, well, you’re either a liar or in denial.

We have all succumbed to this kind of base discourse.

We have all let the darkness creep in.

I am no exception. I look at columns I wrote five or ten years ago and I didn’t have to drop f-bombs every three or four paragraphs (sentences?) just to get my point across. Now, that’s not to say a well-timed expletive doesn’t do the trick. I’m just wondering if, well, I’ve gotten desensitized to certain types of thought and speech. Or whether I’ve become lazy.

I think it’s the latter.

I think it’s because we’re spoon fed both fact AND fiction all day and we’re asked, constantly, to have an opinion and to express or at least “share” it in a venue that’s both as innocuous and as evil as can be. The words “echo chamber” have been popping up a lot and isn’t it so? We sort of live in breathe in spaces only occupied by like-minded people. Those we have chosen to winnow down from the greater group of influencers in our lives.

Right now, if I go to my Facebook, the messages I see are of real hope, real light for the first time in a long long time, and that is due to Michelle Obama’s performance last night, which united — unparalleled — not only her party, but this big old dysfunctional landscape for the first time in a long, long time.

I think this, because the cohort of lunch-loving, family-friendly faces on my feed are a hand-chosen (by myself, and frankly, Facebook’s algorithm) bunch of like-minded current and former friends, classmates, co-workers and acquaintances.

But right now, RIGHT, yes, FUCKING now, there’s also a guy buried deep in the rust belt or in the far recesses of the south, whose feed is coming up with David Duke sheet-ironing parties, Ted Nugent’s bow-hunting knee-jerks and lots of skinny angry blond girl takes on how it wasn’t just slaves that built the White House.

So what I’m saying is, those forums are not actual reflections of people or their real opinions were you to sit down and talk to them.

Ditto the emails.

Now back to Michelle and her speech.

….She unified the country.

It’s about timing and being present at the right time. For that moment, the First Lady was not only the hug we needed, but she was the follow-up perspective to go along with it.

We believe her because she has been there. She, very vividly and very candidly, talked about her feelings as a mother, sending her very young daughters off to school in black SUVs guarded by men with guns. Can you imagine, just for a moment, fearing that every time your husband walks out the bedroom door in the morning, that he’s not going to come back — not only because he’s the most powerful leader in the world, but because of the color of his skin?

Think on that for a minute. There is overcoming and then there’s overcoming what you’ve had to already overcome over and over and over. Most of us would have lasted a week, maybe.

So she could have sat this one out. She have just said, I’ve had enough. I’ve done my time. I gave at the (oval) office. It’s finally someone else’s turn.

She could have said, I don’t want to look pretty or get my hair done or try to fit into that dress or deal with whatever 50 million trolls say on Twitter the next day. I want to cuddle up next to Barack on the couch, open a bottle of wine, cheers to our good fortune and success — and watch the next generation take over.

But she didn’t.

She stepped up and you knocked it — pardon me — all the way the fuck out.

She made us believe again that things are still possible here, that hard dedication and kindness — not slander, not sloganeering, not speculation and not straight assholery — are what we are, as actual people, about.

After the punishing last week hearing all about how my life’s in danger, how my child’s life is threatened, how people, foreign and domestic, only want to kill me, I was a little weary, tired. I didn’t want to get up and dust myself off and square up for the fight.

What happened to dedication, to overcoming the odds, to standing up not only for what you believe, but what’s right? Why am I listening, reacting to a charlatan cough up black bile all over the podium? Why am I subjected to, and letting myself become angered by, lies and no facts and magical thinking and a platform based on no platform but for the notion of turning back the clock to some time that doesn’t exist, never did exist and never will exist.

Hate begets hate and violence begets violence. And…well, just as I was about to give up, Michelle stepped up and said, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.”

There it is.

That’s what i needed to hear.

That’s what all of us needed.

Because America is the ultimate fake-it-till-you-make-it experiment. Michelle and Barack, they had nothing. They were from nowhere. But they got educated. They found each other. They formed a bond. They made a family. They worked hard. They set goals. They stuck together. And frankly, they ended up running shit.

You don’t like that? You can’t respect that? That doesn’t make you want to put on your work boots and your tool belt and your hard hat this morning and get back to it? That’s fine. That’s your decision. Wallow in your own excrement.

But for me, and hopefully for most of us, it’s go-time.

Or, in the words of Michelle, “Let’s get to work.”

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of “Burgundy Upholstery Sky,” and lives in California. When he says, ‘I’m with her’ he means Michelle — for this week anyway. 

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